What’s the link between Cheshire, the football clubs of Juventus and Torino, the renowned Italian director Dario Argento and the Bicerin drink? Apparently there isn’t any. Che c’azzecca – it doesn’t make any sense! However, everything has a meaning, even though sometimes it’s difficult to see.
So, long story short, a friend from Cheshire is going to Turin in early December to watch the Juventus – Torino match, AKA Derby della Mole – The Derby of the Mole. Not that I am really into football, not at all actually – Panem et Circenses, bread and circuses, as the Latin wisdom teaches – but any excuse to visit Turin, one of the most underrated Italian destinations.
While everyone should visit Rome at least once in their lives, and Venice is enchanting with its decadent beauty, Turin always surprises tourists with its regal style and enduring glamour – after all it was the capital of the Reign of Italy under the Savoy dynasty. However, I think part of the fascination with Turin relies in its dark side.
So, I find myself wondering: what would I do if I had just 24 hours to spend in Turin? From the traditional morning cappuccino, to the evening aperitivo, I’ve put together a few of the city’s hotspots which should definitely be included in a tour of the city. Needless to say, I am rather jealous of my friend – I do miss Turin!
Turin is magical. And being the city of both black and white magic, the tour starts with an air of superstition. If you head to Piazza San Carlo, one of the most beautiful squares of the town, look for the rearing bull on the pavement. The bull is the symbol of the city (and logo of the Torino football club), and this one in particular is said to bring good fortune to those who tread on its genitals.
The brass bull is directly in front of Caffè Torino, one of several beautiful cafes in Turin. First opened in 1903, it was miraculously spared from the allied bombing raids in November 1942. During my childhood, my grandmother used to tell me how – even though they were safe up in the mountains, far from the city – they could hear the noise of the raids and from afar they looked like fireworks.
It is well worth stopping for an espresso at the bar, which has in its long history welcomed many illustrious people, from intellectuals to politicians and actors, such as Pavese, Einaudi, De Gasperi, James Stewart, Ava Gardner, Brigitte Bardot, to name but a few.
Another café definitely worth a visit in Turin is Caffe Fiorio, situated in Via Po, not far from Piazza San Carlo. Once you are there, go straight to the bar and ask for a Bicerin, the traditional hot drink of Turin. A luxurious coffee with chocolate, whose original recipe is still a fiercely guarded secret. The perfect drink for a cold winter’s day.
And if nothing sounds more appealing than a proper Italian lunch, head over Pastificio de Filippis, in the very central Via Lagrange 39. As the name may suggest, the special dish is fresh pasta. It’s not the largest of restaurants but it’s an ideal place to have lunch for a very reasonable price and enjoy genuine, fresh Italian pasta.
In the afternoon, it’s time to start exploring the fascinating cinematographic heritage of Turin. The city was particularly celebrated by the renowned horror director, Dario Argento. Walk down via Po, cross Vittorio Emanuele I bridge and reach the Chiesa della Gran Madre (Church which features in old time classic The Italian Job).
In via Molino Colombini, you will see the house of Non ho sonno and nearby, in Corso Giovanni Lanza 57, is villa Scott, the set of the very chilling ’70s movie Profondo Rosso. Even though you can’t deny the wonderful talent of Dario Argento, I personally have never seen his films and don’t think l ever will. I’d probably never sleep again.
And if you are a cinema lover, you can continue your film immersion by visiting the Museo Nazionale del Cinema, The National Museum of Cinema, located inside the beautiful Mole Antonelliana.
For dinner, stop at Palazzo Carpano, a beautiful building from the late 17th century. Here you can find Eataly, a large space dedicated to the finest Italian products. You can walk around and try some delicious local delicacies. You can also sit down in and enjoy one of the numerous speciality restaurants or just enjoy the aperitivo hour.
Before finishing your tour, be sure to put your best clothes on and walk to the prestigious Teatro Carignano, in Piazza Carignano. It is here where Niccolò Paganini uttered the proverbial “Paganini non ripete” (Paganini does not repeat). A young Arturo Toscanini also made his Turin debut here, while Friedrich Nietzsche famously enthused over Carmen. What better way round off a day in this wonderful city?
Buon viaggio! Hope you’ll enjoy Turin, whatever reason for visiting it.
- 1/3 cup high-quality cocoa powder, dark chocolate shavings or hot chocolate mix (see note)
- 2/3 cup chilled heavy cream
- Ground espresso (enough for 2 long shots, about 1/3 cup each)
At least 15 minutes before making bicerin, place stainless steel cocktail shaker or jar in the freezer. Fill 2 water goblets or Irish coffee mugs with hot tap water.
In small saucepan combine chocolate with about 2/3 cup water, and set over medium heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until chocolate coats spoon, about 10 minutes. Add sugar to taste. Shut off heat.
Empty glasses and wipe dry. Remove shaker or jar from freezer, add cream and shake vigorously 1 minute. Make espresso. To each glass or mug add a shot of espresso and 1/3 cup chocolate, and carefully spoon 1/3 cup cream over top. Serve immediately.
More on Turin and Slow Food movement here!